It goes without saying that people all over the world have found it necessary to create warm bed coverings. In different places, people have used different approaches to fill this need. The Europeans created big, fluffy duvets with feathers. Mountain inhabitants in Central and South America made colorful, tightly woven blankets. Also, Appalachia of the Eastern United States has a history of making labor-intensive quilts with intricate patterns on them. Similarly, in Jaipur the capital city of Rajasthan, the quilt-makers developed a tradition of making a warm, snuggly, lightweight quilt called a “Jaipuri razai.”
Jaipur is not only the home to royals but also many traditional crafts. These handicrafts showcase the colorful side of the city and draw thousands of tourists from all over the world. These unique items make the Pink city a very popular shopping destination in India and are the identity of this fairyland of handicrafts. One of the incredible crafts that have managed to capture the hearts of many is the art of making a quilt or Jaipuri Razai. Jaipuri Razai is lightweight, soft cotton quilts, that can be folded into a very small bundle are a favorite souvenir from Jaipur.
Jaipuri razai is just like a duvet or a bed comforter. Like every else handicraft items in Jaipur, the making of the Jaipuri Razai has not remained untouched by the advent of artistry. Its functionality is equally as important as the artisanry goes into making it. Although this type of quilt is handmade, soft and snuggly, one should not get the impression that it is delicate. These comforters are, in fact, quite durable and warm.
History of Jaipuri Razai
This is not surprising when one considers the history and geography of the region that these Razai originated in.
The origin of Jaipuri razai is somewhere in 16th century and related to Vishnuism. Hindu sector who used to preach Lord Vishnu had strict vegetarian rules which banned the use of leather and wool in certain religious sectors of India. Now, as Rajasthan is located in northwestern India, encompassing the Aravalli Mountain Range and the Great Indian Thar Desert. Throughout Rajasthan, the weather can get bitterly cold, especially at night. Traditionally, the people leave here were often on the move.
From the Shepherds and traders to soldiers, warriors and itinerant bards many people used to travel by camel caravan. Due to the ban of leather and wool, they were in need for a covering that is easy to carry and which keep them warm in the cold desert nights. This necessity inspired artisans to create a cover that was as long-wearing and convenient to carry. This quilt-making style suited its environment so well that it has lasted for centuries and continues to be used today.
There is an interesting story linked to it when a group of Mansoor community or quilt makers shifted from Amber to Jaipur. Kadar Baksh, a young razai maker gifted a jewel of razai, weighing only a pao (250gms.) of cotton to Maharaja Madho Singh Ji. The Maharaja was delighted and rewarded Kadar Baksh with the title of Patel. He also awarded him with two shops that lie opposite Hawa Mahal so that the quilter can trade with his skills instead of serving the royals. Today, there are several small shops belonging to the descendants of Kadar Baksh which carry a rich tradition of Rajai making.
Making of the Jaipuri Razai
The Art of making these beautiful Jaipuri Quilts lies in traditional textile-making skills with age-old techniques. This unique making of Jaipuri razai make it one of the best things to shop at jaipur. The process involves sewing three layers of fabric along to form a thick padded material. The 3 layers include the top fabric, a backing material and insulating or batting material. The outer fabric is washed and ironed before sewing and cutting. Washing eliminates the risk of fabric bleeding later and ironing avoids wrinkles and creases. This cotton fabric is then hand block printed in vegetable dyes in pastel colors, filling it with finely carded cotton evenly spread in the covering and stitched by hand. The borders are sewn by machine to make them last longer.
Now comes the three unique and main steps that hold the utmost importance – cotton carding, voile-making, and quilting.
This process involves preparing of cotton used as filling in quilts. The carding (dhunai) of the cotton is done by hand so that quilts remain extra light and extra warm. For carding two carders are used. These carders are convex paddles connected with small teeth and the fibers are placed over the carders. Then the other carder is drawn over the face of the first one several times altering its position between vertical and horizontal.
This process of carding is done in order to expose and remove the dross cotton (waste cotton) from cotton. This process takes a whole week to remove the dross from cotton. What remains is the soft, fine, delicate cotton fibers. The cotton carding is started with a kilogram of cotton. After a full week of carding the cotton, mere 100 grams of cotton is left to use to fill the Jaipuri Razai. The fluffiness and lightness of the cotton fill are essential of a warmer and cozier quilt.
After preparing the fill, the process of quilt making comes into the picture. Cotton is layered evenly throughout the fabric shell to avoid lumps and sagging. This process again adds to the warmth of the handmade quilt. The shell of the quilt is usually a high-quality, lightweight and soft cotton voile. A velvet or silk covering is also used instead of cotton voile.
After filling the quilt, it is stitched together. Earlier, the quilt-makers did all the stitching with a hand-held needle. Modernly, however, quilt-makers use a sewing machine to stitch the sides of the quilt together. The machine-stitched sides increase the durability of the quilt. Then the quilt is taken forward for running stitch (tagai). This is done on the interior of the quilt panels to hold the fill in place. Usually women do the tagai. This technique helps a quilt last longer.
All this work, from the carding to the filling to the quilting, is typically done by artisans whose families have been practicing these skills for generations.
Jaipuri Razai or the Jaipuri quilts are enjoying great demand across the world because of superior Rajasthani workmanship. It is also in the list of top things jaipur is famous for. The skills and talents of artisans are very praiseworthy because they put a lot of effort into unique and beautiful handmade creation. Jaipuri razai has earned a sobriquet because of its weight, which is around 700 to 800 grams. These quilts are also exported overseas and do a trade of more than 100 crores.
They manufactured Jaipuri Razai in Topkhane Ka Rasta, Char Darwaza, Idgah, Chandpole Bazar, Sanganer, and Shastrinagar and sold mostly in the bazaars of the walled city. Due to the demand of the customers, silk and velvet are used as the outer fabric. Among all three types of quilts – cotton, velvet, and silk, the velvet ones are the costliest. The price of a quilt depends upon the type of fabric and cotton used, and also the type of carding and stitching. A single quilt can cost from a couple of hundred rupees to more than a couple of thousand rupees.
Jaipuri Razai market is a huge hit. You can find different varieties with different shades, prints, and motifs. Designs of diamond motifs, circle motifs, line motifs, Sitara motifs and paan motif adds to their beauty. If you want to buy such a traditional quilt, head on over to the shops near Hawa Mahal, Bapu Bazar, Chaura Rasta, and Gopalji ka rasta to get the authentic Jaipuri Razai.
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